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Sunday, March 29, 2009

Sshhhh...we offer mediclaim to senior citizens

Health insurance policies exclusively for senior citizens, launched by the public sector general insurance companies on a request by former president APJ Abdul Kalam, exist only on paper today.

None of the four public sector general insurance companies is keen to promote these policies, which cater to the 60-80 years age bracket.

The normal mediclaim cover, usually issued only up to 60 years, is either denied to people above 55 years or the premium hiked significantly.

A senior official with a general insurance company conceded as much on the condition of anonymity. "We had floated these policies under pressure from the government. But we are not promoting them because there is an expectation of immediate claim. The health portfolio, which is already in losses, would suffer further."

National Insurance Company was the first to launch an exclusive mediclaim policy called Varistha Mediclaim for the 60-90 years age group, in December 2006.United India Assurance Company, Oriental Insurance Company and New India Assurance Company followed with their products, after P Chidambaram in his budget speech announced that the other three players have been asked to launch similar products.

Star Health & Allied Insurance, another exclusive health insurer, also launched a policy called Senior Citizens Red Carpet.

Insurance brokers DNA Money talked to said there weren't many enquiries for mediclaim covers specifically for senior citizens.

"Only 2-3 customers have come asking for the cover, which tells us that there is no awareness of such a product," a major Delhi-based insurance broker said.

Another insurance broker said, "Public sector companies do not sell it (senior citizen's covers) because they know these are going to be loss-making proposals for them."To add insult to injury, the agents are given miniscule or no commission in case they get a customer who is above 55 years.

According to the Insurance Regulatory Development Authority (IRDA), of the five major types of insurance policies sold, the highest losses are incurred on health policies. As per the latest available figures, the incurred claims ratio of public sector general insurance companies on health in 2006-07 was 157.79% vis-à-vis 103.42% incurred by private insurance companies.

According to an Irda report, New India had the highest claims ratio in health at 212.81%.

The volumes recorded earlier have also reduced of late, say sources. It is also learnt that government, which was taking proactive steps to ensure insurers offered covers, has now shifted attention.

A source said, "The central government used to ask for statistics during the initial days, but has stopped asking for figures now."

Currently, only two of the abovementioned players are issuing policies, say brokers."In case a proposal comes, these companies are not denying covers, as was the case earlier with 55-plus age group. Insurers are doing proper checkups and noting down any pre-existing condition on the forms," said Rahul Aggarwal, head of Optima Insurance Brokers.

Asked why the covers may not be promoted, Aggarwal said, "One must understand that insurance, like any other business, is a for-profit one. If the government pushes the company to launch a product where one is sure to make losses, the organisation has no interest in it." In any case, senior citizen's policies shouldn't be about subsidised premium alone, said Aggarwal. The policy should offer covers that are relevant to senior citizens, he said, adding, "Not many policies in the market are offered accordingly."


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